A daunting 150 short films are currently being screened at the Megaplex 17 at Jordon Commons in Sandy, Utah, for the Second Annual Filmquest Film Festival, which celebrates the horror, fantasy and science-fiction genres.
These films represent a wide variety of themes inherent to the genres they represent, and they stand as calling cards for the next generation of filmmakers. The work of countless veteran, amateur and student filmmakers are on display for an audience eager to witness their unique vision.
This year’s shorts program is presented in numerous, nearly two-hour blocks, and a few shorts are being paired with feature films. The films themselves tackle various themes – from comedy to straight-up horror, from the supernatural to the human condition, from animation to re-animation – and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
With shorts, filmmakers don’t have the luxury of building up a long narrative. The story needs to be quick and to the point – economical and ultimately impactful.
It would take forever to break down all the short films that are being screened; and I only managed to see a third of them. But here are a few that stood out in my mind, left an impact or actually got my blood flowing and stayed with me well after the conclusion.
- Joshua Planz and John Mattiuzzi’s Zerogon is an interesting hybrid of live-action and animation. A solitary creature on a desolate planet encounters an anomaly and sets out to investigate. The imagery is quite cool, and the blending of the actor with his computer-generated body is quite seamless. You don’t know where it’s going, but when it ends you kind of snicker at the cool, simplicity of it.
- Fred Burdy’s Through the Storm is a nicely animated tale about the lengths someone will go to be reunited with a loved one. It contains striking imagery, a compelling plot and a rather poignant and poetic ending that you may not see coming.
- Hsun-Chun Chuang’s Switch Man is a cute and entertaining computer-animated tale about a legendary superhero who must face off against a menacing creature. The humor builds, with one particular laugh-out-loud moment, to its conclusion and ends leaving you wanting to see more.
- Alvaro Garcia’s Sumer is an intriguing piece of science fiction. This computer-animated film looks at a devastated Planet Earth, where a young boy begins to see visions of animals that no longer exist. Is it his imagination or are they real? You’ll have to see the film to find out.
- Nassos Vakalis’ Dinner for Few is an animated short filled to the brim with bleak metaphors and biting social commentary. In it, we witness a group of pigs gorging themselves on food at the dinner table, but that is just the beginning. The imagery is stark and striking, and its message is very blunt. Nevertheless, just how well it sums up society as a whole is sobering.
- Morten Forland’s Total Awesome Viking Power is an amusing comic-fantasy in which a group of weekend cosplayers suddenly discover that someone amongst them is more than what he appears. It’s an entertaining “what-if” adventure that has plenty of funny situations, amusing quips, Vikings and, not to be forgotten, ninjas.
- Kathryn Lyn’s Undying: A Zombie Love Story is a cute confection of romance and zombies. In it, a couple on the verge of breaking up rekindles their romance when they become undead. The film has a great sense of humor with a number of funny moments and revelations. Lyn takes the familiar and gives it a nice, wry twist to amusing effect.
- Alexander Quezanda’s Zugar Zombie is a fast-paced and entertaining zombie flick. The film follows a zombie outbreak that slowly begins to take over a plantation. Discovering the cause and how it got there is just part of the fun. I had the opportunity to see this at Screamfest, and it proves that you don’t need to be from Pittsburgh to make engaging zombie flicks.
- Corbin Saleken’s The Vehicle takes one genre, mixes in another genre, and ends up with a thought-provoking story. In it, a man meets a woman outside her home, and that’s all I’ll say. For a science fiction/fantasy it does so economically without ever once showing its hand or even what’s expected. The dialogue and performances tell the story, and once it feels like it’s going to deliver what’s expected it, leaves you pondering what you’ve seen.
- J. Briones’ The Smiling Man is short and sweet, but in the end, you may find yourself having a hard time trying to sleep. A young girl who is home alone comes face to face with a dark and twisted person. “Unsettling and disturbing” just about sums up the titular character as we are left to wonder just what this demented being has in store for this little girl. Creepy with a capital “C.”
- Josh Funk’s The Spaceman can be looked upon in two ways. One: it’s a well made representation of the imagined adventures kids go on when they climb into their cardboard spaceships. Two: it’s actually an ultra-low-budget sci-fi flick with ships and costumes made from cardboard. Either interpretation works in this fun space adventure that features Tim Burton-esque stop-motion animation. It’s a nostalgic piece for those who have actually built cardboard spaceships in their basements when they were kids. This film critic built a light-cycle from TRON.
This is just a small sampling of some of the shorts I managed to see during the festival’s opening weekend. All of the shorts elicited some sort of response from me, which is all a viewer could hope for, especially when filmmakers only have a few minutes to make their case. If you are in the Salt Lake City area, take the opportunity to catch some of the shorts; you are sure to find something that appeals to your tastes.
Keep an eye out for Part III of my series as I continue my look at the short films I had the pleasure to see at Filmquest Film Festival 2015. Click here to view part 1 of this series.